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From the Collection: The Pearlman Museum is home to renowned Inuit prints

“Carleton has a history [with] the Arctic. President Lawrence Gould, president of Carleton from 1945 to 1962, was an Arctic and Antarctic explorer. His Inuit winter clothing, a stuffed penguin and his world globe still inhabit Carleton.” Kip Lilly ‘71 cites Carleton’s connection to the circumpolar region as part of the reason he donated his collection of eighty prints created by Canadian Inuit artists to the Perlman Teaching Museum.

Lilly’s interest in the circumpolar region piqued when two of his far-north experiences intersected at the top of the globe. In the late 1960s and early 1980s, Lilly and some fellow Carls paddled through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota, into Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and finally the Northwest Territories of Canada. In 1975, Lilly paddled the Coppermine River—a river that slices through Nunavet and the Northwest Territories and drains into the Arctic Ocean. Lilly says his experiences canoeing in the Arctic Circle “stimulated an interest in the north and the Indigenous people who live there.” Subsequently, he was exposed to Inuit art and prints. One thing among many that spoke to him about Inuit prints and their artists was that “Indigenous artists provided a unique perspective on the history and way of life up north.” 

The 1960s to the 1980s, when Lilly travelled to the circumpolar region, was the “golden era” of Canadian Inuit prints. Lilly explains this is because “older artists still remembered the old ways and lived on the land. Their work frequently featured how they lived and their relationship to the animals.” Prints from this era are the ones that Lilly generously donated to the Perlman Collection. With the donation of eighty Inuit prints, Lilly expressed that “it would be my dream that Carleton could become a leading source of circumpolar scholars. And, perhaps, scholars on this research vessel. The prints can be a help for professors to augment their lectures and to inspire a new generation of explorers of this still mysterious realm for most of us in the South.”

The Inuit prints now in the possession of the Perlman Teaching Museum are all in editions of fifty or fewer. Their medium ranges from stencils, lithographs, serigraphs, and even stone cut prints, but they are all on rice paper, and most are the same size. They come from print cooperatives in Baker Lake, Kinngait, Puvirnituq, Ulukhaktok and Inukjuak in the Northern Quebec and Nunavut regions. There are a variety of artists represented, but Lilly notes that many of them are of the most famous: “Luke Anguhadluq and Jessie Oonark from Baker Lake form the bulk of the collection. But Pudlo and Kingmeata from Cape Dorset and Davidialuk from Povungnituk are also featured.” In 2018, the prints were featured in a Perlman Teaching Museum exhibition called UnikKaute. Recently, a series of five educational videos were produced that “thematically explore the prints,” according to the Perlman Teaching Museum. These videos can be found on the Perlman Teaching Museum’s website. With the Perlman now in possession of a plethora of Canadian Inuit prints, Lilly hopes that “Carleton can contribute to better understanding the region and supporting the folks who live there.” 

Lilly comments on the importance of the circumpolar region today: “The news is filled with articles awakening the world to how the circumpolar region is not only a fragile environment, but a potential flash point for international conflict in the West’s search for ice-free circumpolar transportation routes and for the rich mineral deposits that lie below the surface.” But the region has always been important, something Lilly notes we in the South are only now becoming aware of. With increasing recognition of the current and historical importance of the circumpolar region, Lilly shares why Inuit art is so significant and why he hopes these prints could cultivate a similar passion in Carleton students among others: “The art reflects circumpolar issues. So, it was the art that broadened my world view and has become a passion I wish to share.” 

Since the 1960s, the nature of Inuit prints has changed to reflect global changes and changes in society. Unlike the ones the Perlman collection is now housing, which depict traditional scenes of nature and life on the land, contemporary prints are created by “newer artists who reflect more of how global influences like drugs, music and technology are changing their lived experiences,” Lilly explains. Lilly shares his hopes about these contemporary Inuit prints and Carleton: “I hope Carleton can acquire some of these fine works to show the arc of how the art has changed, reflecting how life in the circumpolar region has changed.” 

Lilly’s collection is ever-evolving: “It will be complete when my ashes mix with the snow.” 

For inquiries regarding the Carleton Art Collection and requests to utilize these artworks as teaching tools, please contact Sara Cluggish, the Mary Huling’s Rice Director and Curator of the Perlman Teaching Museum.

Helen Kalvak (Holman), Hunting White Whale, 1977

Davidialuk Alasua Amittuq (Povungnituk), Legend of the Giant, 1977

Luke Anguhadluq (Baker Lake), Musk Ox, 1977

Luke Anguhadluq (Baker Lake), Fishing, 1973

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